Glyn Carter

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I can't say I'm settled on what sort of writer I am. We need multi-stringed bows, right? 

I started writing screenplays, but came to realise that the movies are even harder to break into than publishing. One commonly heard peice of advice for screenwriters is: "Don't write a screenplay, write your idea as a novel, and sell the screen rights with your name down to do the first draft of the adaptation." Or: "Take the country lanes, son, because the motorway is jammed."

So I rewrote some of my short film scripts as short stories, with some success. I wrote a ghost story novella, then graduated to an historical novel. And now, while I wait for agents to rush to my inbox, I'm writing a fantasy adventure. Forthcoming: dystopian SF. Maybe even literary drama. I've written a couple of plays, too. As I said, I'm not settled on what sort of writer I am. Probably never will be. 

I live in Hastings, East Sussex, and I warm to art and architecture, live music, cricket, and Netflix.

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Glyn Carter Discussions
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In the early days of lockdown last year, when the world went made for toilet rolls and pasta, I was …
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  •  · He does, doesn't he. I admit, it's a sop for non-Arabic speakers and anyone who doesn't know what In…
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Just come out of a very informative but also frustrating SFOW webinar with two "film scouts" - peopl…
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  •  · I remember this question from a military exam: How long is a rope (piece of string)?  It is exactly …
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I have a long novel drafted. It's a historical adventure (think Bernard Cornwall's The Last Kingdom)…
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For anyone with access to BBC Radio 4 via any medium at all: The arts programme Front Row (weekdays,…
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  •  · Thanks Glyn, I'll give it a listen. 
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The Zoom reading of my play Arnold and Cherry is watchable, no pun intended, on You Tube: https://yo…
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"Arnold is 85, gay, and terrified of losing his marbles. All sorts of things don’t add up any more. …
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  •  · I tried the link and watched a couple of pieces to give me an idea of what it was.  I'm coming back …

Yes, it is a cliched situation. You get away with it because it's so well handled. What I'd say is: handle a non-cliched situation equally well, and you've got two elements to impress an agent/publisher/highly critical reader. Raise your own bar. What might either character be doing that is odd and revealing? It's not bad, and maybe the setting is necessary. Just perhaps not as memorable as it could be.

My other note is that there are three sentences or phrases with no active verb. There's one in the second sentence. Then "A shrill voice..." Then "a flash of her blonde curls..."  It's a device that can be used to convey urgency or action or that the pov character is Philip Marlowe, but I don't feel it's justified here. For me, three instances jump out as writerly affectation.

Your MS has to look the part. If it's not double spaced 12 point TNR (or similar), there's a risk that an agent drowning in submissions might use that as a reason not to even read the thing.

Minor points like not indenting the first paragraph won't put them off a great story. But why miss the chance to show professionalism and polish?

The thing about asterisks to mark a change of scene are much more subjective, and very much to do with how you pace your book. Look at how different authors use them. 

They might be useful if you have a lot of scene changes. A couple of blank line spaces work just as well, but the asterisk shows that it's deliberate choice on your part. On the other hand, you can also just start a paragraph "Next day..." or "When they got home..."

I tend to use them to mark not just any old change of location or time lapse, but a significant new step in the story, somewhere between a simple scene change and a whole new chapter. No rules on this one, apart from being consistent within the novel or story. 

I should be careful what I write here, because my two collections of short stories (which, plug plug, you can find on Amazon), have both overall intros, and intros to each story.

Funny you should raise this - I have a similar issue for a viewpoint character, and I've just been working on editing the sequence. He is told to adopt a new name, Oswald, instead of his old one, Walt. In the chapter where this happens I continue to refer to him as Walt. Only in the next chapter do I call him Oswald throughout.

I don't have a line like yours, though. It feels a bit on the nose, and I'm sure the reader gets what's going on. There are subtler ways of reminding them that Oswald is Walt, like having him recall things that happened to him earlier in the narrative, or remember his backstory that readers already know about.

Only when he has a flashback to a traumatic incident does he become Walt again in the narrative, reflecting what's going on in his head. It might be confusing, but again I think readers will get why it happens. Ideally they won't even notice, but the emotional impact of his past coming back will be felt through the use of his real name.

I'm not saying there's a right and a wrong way. I guess the two important factors are: what's the effect on the reader - confusion bad, identification good; and does your decision reflect how the character thinks about himself? Walt is happy to be Oswald, because he's running away from Walt's past, and because his life is at stake. Also, he's young, unsure of himself, and very much in awe of / controlled by the person who changes his name. 

If your Danny is adopting Frank as a very knowing disguise, but continues to think of himself as Danny, you might keep referring to him as Danny. Doing so will let the reader know that he's maintaining his own identity, at least to himself. Calling him Frank in your narration, conveys that he is totally immersed in his new identity, and it's not just a superficial thing. (And then it might be worth a paragraph exploring his thinking.) 

Good luck with it!

No, Rob, I'm coming at it as an ex-filmmaker. I absolutely agree that you don't want to be telling the story, just the premise. "Sell the sizzle, not the sausage", as the admen say.

But then about 25% the video does start telling the story. And it's little stuff - he goes to America - at the expense of big stuff about Gods clashing.

Noise and dramatic imagery is fine, I just think the explosion between every clip is overdone, so it becomes distracting.

You're right about the G&T though!

The narration sample is utterly uninspiring. He actually sounds like an artificial voice. Find a voicover actor who takes direction, and try to communicate what you want directly.

The video is quite something! Is this what we're all going to have to do from now on, trail our books like movies? The American voice turned me off, but I can see it reflects both your MC and your target readership. Here some thoughts (as someone who's commissioned a trailer for a short film)

  •  I do wonder if you're trying to get too much in... Do you really need the ten seconds from  25 ("Returning to America")? You're starting to tell the story, and you don't need to. Omit that, and instead mention the warring Gods, otherwise the title is neglected.
  • As it is, from the words (if not the music), it could be a small scale creepy ghost story about a man haunted by spirits from an old battlefield. Bring in the Gods, and it becomes much more epic. (Images can do the work of showing that he goes back to America - you don't need to say it)
  • Why "He finds no peace"? Was he looking for peace? You don't need it. It adds nothing except an unanswered question.
  • I understand the need for closed captions, for people with hearing difficulties. But putting them in big letters, in white, and dead centre, detracts from the images. This helps no-one, because, as we know, images are much more powerful. 
  • The visual and audio explosions between every clip and link quickly become both annoying and distracting. I'd reserve them for the start, and a couple of key transitions where you want to make an impact. Trying to give everything extra impact gives nothing extra impact.

Trailers are even harder than pitches and summaries! I applaud your ambition.

Just followed you. I read a few - they are kinda one-liner jokes, building good characters. It's an art in itself. I liked!

Very useful ideas, Kate - thanks! Your very short stories - do you mean 280 characters short? Or a bit longer, and posted elsewhere?

Your choice. But if you tell a great story with vivid writing, it won't fail. Well it might, but not because the basic plot has been done before - most of your potential readership won't know that. It's possible that a publisher might say "that's been done", but unlikely if the competition wasn't published recently by a mainstream imprint.

I looked up The Ninth Legion in Wiki. There are a lot of stories about the Ninth's disappearance, and most of them have them beaten by some British tribe. No problem with the overlap there, and that's in the context of at least one very famous version (because of the film), The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe. Four of the novels mentioned by Wiki refer to the Ninth being transported to another world. Maybe one day you'll be a fifth!

If you have a lot invested in it to date, I think you should carry on. If the Ninth connection becomes an impediment, can you invent another legion that disappears?

He does, doesn't he. I admit, it's a sop for non-Arabic speakers and anyone who doesn't know what Inshallah means. He wouldn't actually think "God willing" even if he was thinking in English, but I thought I neede to put it in.

Thanks so much! (Though you had me worried in your second sentence, for just a moment)

Your final point bears thinking about. My feeling is that if the narrator is a Muslim, it would be worse to change it to God Willing than to leave it as Inshallah. I could of course have had him as a plain Englishman, but then I'd lose the opportunity to present a positive image of a Muslim immigrant. I could have made him Romanian, say, but Romanians don't get quite such bad press (especially not this week).

Nobody who doesn't put a lot of time into marketing ever made much of an impression self-publishing, unless they are already famous or (perhaps) have a unique true story to tell.

Only an independent local bookshop is likely to give you shelf space as a self-publisher, so at least you don't need to wear out your shoes or car tyres. It's not just SEO and your website, it's learning how to work Amazon and the other online publishers, building a following, engaging with online social media (such as fans of your genre, people who live where your story is set, or who identify with any issues raised), building loyalty through a newsletter... 

There are lots of video webinars on JW worth watching. One was from last week, with Clare Mackintosh, who has an agent and publisher and all, and she still does a lot of that networking work. But her publisher puts her books into shops and advertises on Amazon etc, so it's an investment that pays off.

In short, you have to self-publicise anyway, but a publisher will help. On your own, it's even more time consuming, and a steep learning curve, and not free. Me, I'd rather be getting on with my next novel!

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